Duterte: Ensure vaccine access

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte called on member states of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to ensure universal access to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines and inclusive economic recovery amid the world’s continued battle against the pandemic.

TOUGH GUYS President Rodrigo Duterte takes a moment during the virtual 27th APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Economic Leaders’ Meeting at Malacañang on Nov. 20, 2020. Inset photo shows him onscreen with US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other state and economic leaders. MALACAÑANG PHOTOS

During the first-ever virtual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Friday night, Duterte said APEC would play an important role in the region’s post-pandemic recovery efforts and in achieving sustained and inclusive growth.

“We have to reopen our economies, while protecting and helping our people adjust to a ‘new normal.’ This is a difficult balance to strike. Here lies the complexity and enormity of the recovery process,” Duterte said.

“We aim for a comprehensive recovery with no one left behind. This can only be done through deeper engagement with the international community, especially with close partners in the Pacific Rim region,” he added.

The President called on APEC economies to strengthen partnerships and “ensure the unimpeded flow of medical supplies and technologies, especially Covid-19 vaccines.”

“It is folly to assume that there can be pockets of safe havens in the face of a global pandemic. We have to defeat the virus everywhere, or no one is safe. To do this, we need to strengthen partnerships to make vaccines a global public good,” he said.

“Several modalities are available. Aside from bilateral and multilateral cooperation, tripartite arrangements can be made between the government, private sector, and multilateral financial institutions. There is no other way. Let us resolve to act decisively on universal vaccine access and maximize these mechanisms,” he added.

Duterte said information “is the key to effective response and mitigation efforts” amid the pandemic.

“We welcome Malaysia’s initiative to establish the Covid-Live online portal, precisely for sharing best practices,” he said.

The President also called for “free, open and fair” trade among APEC members.

“This is key to achieving sustained and inclusive economic recovery, where APEC will play an important role,” he said.

Duterte and his APEC counterparts endorsed the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, which commits the 21-member-economies to deepen regional integration, address income inequalities within and between countries, and enhance cooperation to face the disruptive impact of a new globalization, driven by digitalization and innovation.

“The APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 recognizes the pressing challenges of today and foresees those of the future. Through this Vision, we reaffirm our support for a free and rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization as its vanguard,” the President said.

“We commit to address the widening income inequalities between the countries.  And we aim to empower ourselves to face the disruptive impact of a new globalization, driven by digitalization and innovation,” he added.

Indeed, Duterte said the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 “gives us renewed confidence in our collective efforts and ability to build back better, healthier and more prosperous societies.”

“We should not be discouraged. If anything, we must recommit ourselves to bolder, more concrete ways to ensure our region’s economic well-being and vitality,” he said.

“Let us join hands, as we have always done, to make this Vision a reality,” the President added.

Over 57 million people worldwide have so far contracted the new coronavirus strain, which was first detected in Hubei, China.

In the Philippines, the virus has infected more than 415,000, of whom, 374,939 have recovered while 7,998 have died.

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